Dozens of tombstones vandalized at northwest Charlotte cemetery

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Dozens of tombstones in a small northwest Charlotte cemetery were reportedly vandalized.

"Been living in this neighborhood actually 10 years," Tony Chapman said. "So to see this, you go wow – this is a new low."

Chapman lives near Salem Church Cemetery, which is in the 5500 block Rozzelles Ferry Road.

He told WBTV that the small cemetery, nestled between the road and the railroad tracks, catches his eye.

"I always notice it," Chapman said. "Every time I ride by I make a point of what comes first – the railroad tracks or the graveyard because they're so close in proximity to each other."

Tuesday afternoon when he drove by, the cemetery was its usual way: nondescript.

But, Chapman said it was a different scene on Wednesday morning.

Several tombstones had been knocked over or broken.

"I can't believe somebody would do this," Chapman said as he surveyed the vandalism. "Everybody has got a mama or grand mama in the ground somewhere. It could be theirs."

Some of the tombstones were for people who died in the 1800's.

One of the damaged stones was for a little boy who hadn't yet made it to 10 years of age. His tombstone made a point to mark his age in years and days.

Chapman said he called police.

"I couldn't let this one go. No, I couldn't this go" he said. "My little brother is in the ground. He killed himself this year. I would hate for somebody to come do this to his grave you know what I mean. Yeah, this is bad. This is bad."

Charlotte Mecklenburg police say no arrest has been made. They're still investigating the case.

"First thing that crossed my mind is why would somebody do that? What's the point?" asked Barry Elliot, of Salem Baptist Church. "People are just ignorant, unfortunately, and people really have no reverence or respect for anything these days."

Elliot says the church, which is about a mile away, has owned the cemetery for at least 100 years.

He says Salem Baptist Church has been in existence for 144 years, and the cemetery was around for much of that time.

Elliot says some of their founding members are likely buried in the cemetery.

"We don't know exactly who is buried there but we do know that we have former slaves that started the church," Elliot told WBTV. "It's highly probable that there are former slaves buried there."

Elliot says police contacted the church about the vandalism.

Even though the cemetery is old, Elliot says there are still people who visit relatives buried there.

"That's the unfortunate thing – that somebody's loved one is there. Someone's great grandmother, someone's great grandfather is there," he said.

For Elliot - the tombstone vandalism speaks volumes.

"It's a lack of respect but it's also a disregard for someone else's heritage," he said.

According to the police report, the cemetery damages amount to around $30,000.

Elliot says the church contacted their insurance company.

"So we're waiting to hear if there's something they can do to cover it," he said. "We're not even sure if the insurance company is going to cover that."

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